County board to review Soo Locks support

MARQUETTE — A resolution in support of the development of an additional lock at the Soo Locks will be considered today by the Marquette County Board of Commissioners.

The board will hold its meeting at 6 tonight in room 231 of the Henry A. Skewis Annex, located along Baraga Avenue in Marquette.

If passed, the resolution will indicate Marquette County’s support of the “development and the funding of the twinning of the Poe Lock as soon as possible,” according to board documents.

The Poe and MacArthur locks are the only two that are currently used for shipping purposes — an additional lock is needed because “the 49-year-old Poe Lock is in need of repair and the MacArthur Lock’s size is not suitable for modern freighters to pass through,” the resolution states.

The additional lock would allow for more “efficient and redundant transportation opportunities,” which could mitigate the detrimental impacts that even a temporary closure of the Poe Lock would have, board documents state.

“Closing the Poe Lock would cause a negative impact of $160 million within a 30-day span,” according to the resolution.

Due to the economic significance of the locks, adding another at the Soo Locks is of critical importance, county officials wrote in the document.

“The Soo Locks are a vital economic contributor, not just for Michigan, but for the entire U.S. Economy as well,” according to the resolution.

Furthermore, the Soo Lock, out of 196 locks, is “ranked number one in its significance to the economy and saves approximately $3.5 billion in costs for transportation for each year,” the resolution states.

The resolution also outlines the consequences of a long-term closure of the locks, stating that 11 million jobs would be lost if the Soo Locks closed for even six months and “a shutdown of the locks would result in the halt of the North American automotive production within a matter of weeks.”

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the new lock will cost roughly $1 billion to construct.

The project is “currently authorized to be 100 percent federally funded” but the state of “Michigan is currently in the process of contributing up to $52 (million) to this project,” according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps will be requesting funding consideration in the president’s budget for fiscal year 2020.

“The agency will now follow the budgeting process for implementation of the project and will compete for federal funding with other projects across the country,” according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition to considering the Soo Locks resolution, the board will also consider a bid for boiler system at the Negaunee Service Center, which is located along U.S. 41 and houses the Marquette County Health Department, among other agencies.

According to board documents, the two independent boiler systems at the Negaunee Service Center are “in need of replacement due to life expectancy” and there are currently no alternative options if one of the two boilers were to fail.

“The new boiler system will tie the existing units together giving this facility heating redundancy,” a letter from Marquette County Facilities Manager Aaron Karlstrom to Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch states.

Four bids were received for the project, which will be funded by the public improvement fund, the letter states.

Staff recommendation is to proceed with the lowest bidder, WDM Enterprises Inc., for a cost of roughly $77,700, according to Karlstrom’s letter.